5 Taiwanese Startups to Watch
Since the 90s Taiwan has been a hot spot for hardware development and manufacturing, and this history of technology innovation has positioned the island to become the launch site for a number of exciting tech startups known around the world. Giant is the world leader in bicycle production, and computer and hardware developers ACER, Asus, Foxconn, and TSMC, as well as mobile phone giant HTC all have their headquarters in Taiwan.
These days, Taiwan also has a growing startup community that is producing new and exciting companies set to change the world. Taiwan’s tech and business potential is driven by a number of factors. It features a diverse, globalized, and well-educated labor market. As mentioned, the island sports a “Silicon Valley” of its own where companies from around the world have their hardware tailored exactly to their needs.
Taiwan finds itself in the fastest growing and most important international neighborhood on the planet. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Taiwan is home to a number of startup incubators and accelerators like AppWorks and Garage+ where entrepreneurial-minded individuals can turn for funding and promotion. International accelerators like 500 Startups and TechStars are also here actively recruiting new teams.
It’s no wonder so many startups, both homegrown and international, are finding fertile ground to grow, from Taipei to Kaohsiung. Don’t just take our word for it though – check out these dynamic new startups, all locally grown.
You can’t say “startup” in Taiwan these days without Gogoro popping up in the conversation. The game-changing electric scooter manufacturer was created in 2011 by former HTC executives and immediately drew significant attention – not to mention $150 million in venture capital from names like Cher Wang of HTC and Samuel Lin of Ruentex Group.
Gogoro is just now rolling out its “Smartscooter” for a pilot run in hometown Taipei, and it’s easy to see why it is going to make a huge splash. More important than the Smartscooter, however, is the company’s development of battery-swapping infrastructure, which will ultimately enable the technology to expand and be adapted globally.
Gogoro is further bolstered by its green credentials; not only does it cut down on the huge amounts of smog produced by gas-powered scooters, but its battery stations store energy already on the electrical grid, helping utilities companies offset waste cost and ultimately improving net energy efficiency.
Taiwan is the “ideal” market for the project, according to Hong Kong born designer and CEO Horace Luke, due to its “strong track record of embracing innovation” as well as its already huge amount of scooters.
With strong interest from developing nations like China, India, and Southeast Asia, Gogoro looks poised to expand battery-swap technology and infrastructure, all while rolling out the coolest scooter since the Vespa.
Developed by National Taiwan University graduate Elliot Chou, who was mentored by American Roger Do, Qsearch is essentially a data analysis tool that allows enterprises vastly more precision in Facebook ad targeting than native Facebook ads, making advertising on the social networking behemoth much more effective.
The methodology behind the Qsearch app was honed in the world of politics, having deep ties to Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je; Qsearch helped manage Ko’s social media strategy and enabled the current mayor to connect with a younger demographic as well as efficiently market his brand.
The company has developed a Facebook data analysis app that is able to track what keywords and types of posts attract greater attention. It further allows users to track the Facebook marketing of competitors, so if a rival firm’s post goes viral users will have insight as to why.
Qsearch’s methodology is so promising that it took top billing at Asia Beat Taiwan, winning 1st prize in a crowded set of entrants.
And the potential for profit and growth is huge – the most recent quarterly ad revenue for Facebook was $3.32 billion USD, and that is mostly from Facebook’s own not particularly sophisticated targeting system.
Qsearch could conceivably expand ad revenue for Facebook, as well as increase profits for advertisers all while taking a tidy cut of the bigger pie for itself. Data analytics may not be the sexiest of fields, but Qsearch is clearly a star startup in an industry that is only going to grow.
Focus more on advertising sales of companies before and after Qsearch? Person behind the company – American Roger Dong How big of a market is this? (how big are they going to be, and how will they affect daily life if at all, what share of FB ad revenue does Qsearch predict getting?) FB does X billions in ad sales already, what is it worth to improve with Y%?
Founded by Pokai Chen, a former Acer employee, Taiwanese startup AirSig is the first developer to intelligently address this problem with its algorithm and system for “signing” with your mobile device.
All users need to do is “wave” their mobile device in the path of their own signature, and transactions are immediately – and paperlessly – authenticated. Furthermore, with AirSig’s tech, mobile users can instantly open any app from the lock screen; all you have to do is write the name of the app in the air.
The company has recently attracted international attention for its potential, but also has attracted serious venture capital from Taiwanese giant Foxconn.
In 2014 AirSig received a $2 million USD investment from the conglomerate to develop its technology and it has earned top billing at multiple regional trade conferences, including first prize at the APEC Accelerator Network Summit and was a finalist in the Asia-Pacific RSA conference, both in 2014.
App development is one of the most lucrative and growing tech fields out there today, but for many companies, especially smaller businesses, the costs of launching their own can be prohibitive. Of course, a startup out of Taiwan has risen to the occasion to help bridge this gap.
91APP is a local company that specializes in streamlining app development for businesses, especially online retailers. Founded by Stephen Ho, known as the “Godfather of E-commerce” in Taiwan and led by a team of former Yahoo! employees, 91APP is able to build a functional, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing app in a matter of hours, meaning that small retailers are able to scale their businesses with much greater control and ease.
This innovative company recently received $9 million USD from a group of investors including Appworks, a local Taiwanese startup accelerator, and from Hung-Tze Jan, the founder of PCHome. The interest from investors likely stems from the fact that even before such a beneficial injection of venture capital they were able to serve 1000 clients, both in Taiwan and abroad.
Like the rest of the startups on this list, 91APP has a bright future as a trend-setter in a growing market.
Whoscall by Gogolook
Whoscall, a caller ID app developed by Taiwanese startup Gogolook, is garnering huge amounts of attention including nods from big names like Google’s Eric Schmidt and Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou.
The app itself works as an advanced caller ID system, helping users filter calls and specifically identifying callers. The app also features the ability to blacklist callers and a user-generated database that identifies potentially malicious contacts. Gogolook was founded in 2012 by three Taiwanese friends and has raised $500,000 USD from angel investors.
The startup is additionally backed by Trinity Ventures, a silicon valley based venture capital firm.
With strong funding and such a huge amount of potential and international praise, it is no wonder Whoscall was selected for Google’s “Best Apps” in Asia in 2013.
Gogolook was subsequently acquired by Korean tech company Naver, the developer of the very popular LINE text and chat app, for $17.6 million USD, a number its founders are certainly excited about. These five exciting companies are only a sample of what Taiwan’s dynamic startup scene looks like.
As more entrepreneurs flock to Taiwan, the field will only get bigger and more vibrant, and opportunity for funding, networking, and development abounds. If you have a new and unique business idea, Taiwan is the best place to start your entrepreneurial journey.